By Haroon Reshi
Srinagar: Police forced the 16-year-old Handwara girl to deny that she had been assaulted by a soldier on Tuesday, the girl’s mother said on Saturday.
“She made the statement under police pressure,” girl’s mother Taja Begum said in a five-minute-long video that was recorded at the office of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) where she was scheduled to address reporters.
The police, however, laid siege around the office and did not allow the press conference, nor were JKCCS officials allowed to come out. The video statement of Taja Begum was later provide to journalists by JKCCS officials.
The alleged molestation of the girl triggered a wave of protests in the Valley during which army and police killed five people and injured scores of others. The Valley has observed a shutdown since Tuesday against the killings.
On Friday, when a team of lawyers led by JKCCS patron Parvez Imorz went to Handwara to meet the girl’s mother, police stopped them saying “no exception could be made to allow anyone to speak to the family of the girl”.
Transcript of Taja Begum’s video statement
Our youths have been martyred. My daughter left for school early morning. The school closed at 3:30. She is 16 years old. She went to washroom on the way home. An India army man entered the bathroom. She screamed and the people and shopkeepers crowded around the place. The army man ran away. The youth reacted to this attack and police also came. My daughter was arrested. We knew nothing of this till then. The youth started pelting stones at the army and the police. Their Muslim sister was attacked, would they not do it? This is why the pelted stone. And the army fired and martyred the protestors. Are they not my sons? I am devastated by their killings. My daughter was arrested and the army man escaped. We know nothing since five days about our daughter. The army called us at 1 am in the night of 12 April. They asked us to come and take our daughter home. Our daughter was alone when she was made to give testimony under force. There was no one with her, no family. You see she has been exposed in the video. Her face is there for all to see. Her testimony has been given under duress. We, her parents were called and asked to take her home. I sent my sister and her father but instead of releasing my daughter they were also detained. My daughter is under duress; she is innocent, only 16. She is just a child, and under custody. I want my daughter, my husband and my sister back. I have only received one phone call since they have been detained. I am on bed rest and cannot move around too much. I have back problems. It’s the 5th day today [of their detention]. I am thankful to my Kashmiri community who protested to save my daughter. This should not happen to any other woman tomorrow. We have filed a case in court. Those who committed these murders should not investigate this case. How can murderers investigate? My daughter has been brought into disrepute by using her this way. They have maligned her. My daughter’s honor should be resurrected, she is everyone’s daughter, and our boys who have been martyred; their cases should be investigated. They are responsible for killing them.
Transcript of girl’s video released by army
MAN: Child, don’t worry. You are just like my daughter. Speak up what actually happened.
GIRL: Sir, today as soon as my school closed for the day, I went to the bathroom and handed over my bag to a friend who was accompanying me. Just then a boy slapped me and tried to snatch my bag.
MAN: Civilian boy?
GIRL: Yes, he was wearing uniform. He slapped me saying, ‘have Kashmiris died.” Sir, I yelled at him…said what do you mean by that. Many more boys joined him. He asked me to accompany him to the police station. There was one police uncle too.
MAN: They took you to the police station?
GIRL: No, I told him that I will go with the policeman. Leave my bag… I will go myself. But he started abusing me. I didn’t see anyone. I didn’t see anyone. Hilal baya was also there. Hilal baya too slapped me saying what were you doing there? I told him that you know my family well… do you also believe them? He too abused me then. I think they had made up their mind…they said a lot of things
[Phone rings in the background]
GIRL: Then he started beating me. He accompanied me to the police station. He came inside too and still wouldn’t return my bag. It was only after Shafi uncle intervened that he returned my bag. Shafi uncle told him to leave. He was instigating other boys.